Duke Shows Signs of Closing The Gap

Mike KlineAnalyst IOctober 4, 2009

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 29:  Jabari Marshall #1 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts on the field during the game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Wallace Wade Stadium on November 29, 2008 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Make no mistake, Duke's game against Virginia Tech was just as close as the final score indicated.

Hokie fans may not want to hear it, but Duke is slowly but surely closing gap between the two program.

And while Virginia Tech fans are certainly pleased to have the win, Duke fans can hold their heads up high.

For the first time in David Cutcliffe's tenure, and the first time in decades, Duke played a top ranked team and were in a very good position to win.

Saturday's game was close and well played throughout. A couple of times the Hokies had the opportunity to blow it open but the Blue Devils kept fighting back.

In the end Duke's less than stellar play in the defensive backfield probably cost them the game.

The defense was able to keep the Tech ground game in check for the better part of three quarters, but when the Hokies were able to open up some big pass plays, their running game followed suit.

Easily the turning point of the game came in the third quarter when Duke had Virginia Tech pinned on roughly their own 16 yard line after a penalty. It was third down and 36 and most were thinking pick up a few yards and punt.

It was only a four point game at the time and Duke would have gotten the ball back with lots of momentum. But the Hokies and Coach Frank Beamer had other ideas.

Tyrod Taylor found a receiver open for the first down and a big gain. The Hokies went on to score and Duke never got more than eight-points closer.

Despite that set back Duke didn't quit like they had done so many times over the last 30 plus years. They fought all the way to the end.

That has to be encouraging for fans and coaches alike.

And while Cutcliffe isn't likely to talk about moral victories, the fact that Duke played arguably its best football game in its toughest game of the season so far has to count for something.

If this game tells us anything about Duke is that they have shaken off their rough start to the season and maybe ready for some breakout wins after all.

We will see what happens when Duke faces off against NC State this week. Will the new and improve Devils come out or will it be back to more of the same?